COVID-19 & Sick Leave in British Columbia

Peninsula Team

March 27 2020

New Sick Leave

British Columbia has introduced a new sick leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This change entitles employees with at least 90 days of service to 3 unpaid days of sick leave per year for personal injury or illness. This leave is job-protected, meaning employers cannot terminate an employee for taking it. However, employers may request reasonably sufficient proof of illness or injury to confirm that the employee is unable to work.

Previously, there was no minimum employment standard for sick leave in British Columbia. This is a general sick leave entitlement that is effective from March 23, 2020 onward.

Leave for COVID-19

Another new unpaid job-protected leave was enacted on March 23, 2020 by amendment to the ESA to protect employees unable to work due to COVID-19. This new leave applies to the following individuals:

  • Employees diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Employees who are in isolation or quarantine in accordance with:
    • an order of the provincial health officer,
    • an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada),
    • guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, or
    • guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Employees directed not to work by their employer due to concerns about the employee’s exposure to other workers
  • Employees providing care to eligible persons, including children during school/ daycare closures
  • Employees who are out of province and cannot return due to travel restrictions
  • Employees experiencing other circumstances to be prescribed by regulation

Eligible employees may take leave for as long as the applicable situation justifies absence from work. In cases of personal illness, travel or exposure, the recommended quarantine period is at least 14 days. The employer may make a reasonable request for proof; however, the employer may not ask for a medical note.

This leave is effective retroactive to January 27, 2020, meaning that any employee terminated for taking COVID-19 related leave since then must be offered re-employment in the same or a comparable position.

Do you need help drafting new leave policies for your business?

The new sick leave in B.C. might mean that some businesses have to revise their sick leave policies in order to comply with the province’s minimum employment standards. Get help with staying compliant with the Employment Standards Act from our HR advisors: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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